U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


Main content area

Simulated Soil Organic Carbon Response to Tillage, Yield, and Climate Change in the Southeastern Coastal Plains

P. R. Nash, H. T. Gollany, J. M. Novak, P. J. Bauer, P. G. Hunt, D. L. Karlen
Journal of environmental quality 2018 v.47 no.4 pp. 663-673
Glycine max, Gossypium hirsutum, Kandiudults, Secale cereale, Triticum aestivum, Zea mays, climate change, conservation tillage, conventional tillage, corn, cover crops, crop rotation, crop yield, humid zones, loamy sand soils, models, rye, soil organic carbon, soil profiles, winter, winter wheat
Intensive tillage, low-residue crops, and a warm, humid climate have contributed to soil organic carbon (SOC) loss in the southeastern Coastal Plains region. Conservation (CnT) tillage and winter cover cropping are current management practices to rebuild SOC; however, there is sparse long-term field data showing how these management practices perform under variable climate conditions. The objectives of this study were to use CQESTR, a process-based C model, to simulate SOC in the top 15 cm of a loamy sand soil (fine-loamy, kaolinitic, thermic Typic Kandiudult) under conventional (CvT) or CnT tillage to elucidate the impact of projected climate change and crop yields on SOC relative to management and recommend the best agriculture management to increase SOC. Conservation tillage was predicted to increase SOC by 0.10 to 0.64 Mg C ha⁻¹ for six of eight crop rotations compared with CvT by 2033. The addition of a winter crop [rye (Secale cereale L.) or winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)] to a corn (Zea mays L.)–cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) or corn–soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] rotation increased SOC by 1.47 to 2.55 Mg C ha⁻¹. A continued increase in crop yields following historical trends could increase SOC by 0.28 Mg C ha⁻¹, whereas climate change is unlikely to have a significant impact on SOC except in the corn–cotton or corn–soybean rotations where SOC decreased up to 0.15 Mg C ha⁻¹ by 2033. The adoption of CnT and cover crop management with high-residue-producing corn will likely increase SOC accretion in loamy sand soils. Simulation results indicate that soil C saturation may be reached in high-residue rotations, and increasing SOC deeper in the soil profile will be required for long-term SOC accretion beyond 2030.